| April 27, 2019

Elopement Timeline Tips: How Many Hours Do We Need?

Table of Contents

How Many Hours Should You Hire An Elopement Photographer For?

The majority of the elopements we photograph hire us for 8+ hours (i.e. all day).

That’s right, we said it — an all-day elopement.

They’re real. They’re epic. And you know what? They happen so much more often than people might think.

You might be wondering, “how can an elopement possibly last all day long?”

Trust us, if you’re planning a surreal, adventurous elopement in your dream location that’s totally in line with everything you want, it’s not difficult for the elopement to fill a whole day—or two, even!

It might seem like a weird concept, but when you think about it, it’s not all that crazy.

Traditional weddings typically take up a whole day, right? You’ve got the getting ready, the first looks, the portraits, the ceremony, the after-party, and more. It’s an entire story.

Elopements are your love story being told — there’s no need to rush that.

It’s a day to savor and embrace. Elopements are exactly the adventure you’ve always dreamed of for your wedding day. Which, is why when you look at our elopement packages, you won’t see a 2 or 3-hour option. To us, your entire story deserves to be told, not packed into a short little window!

Groom lifts up bride in a meadow, with trees and mountains in the background.
Bride and groom embrace on their elopement day, smiling at each other, with forests in the background.

Why Hire an Elopement Photographer All Day — How Do Elopements Last That Long?

When we explain all-day elopements to couples and why we offer them (as opposed to 2 or 3 hour sessions), we like to ask them questions like this:

Think about the best day you two could have together — don’t spare details. Think about what you’d want to do from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to bed. What would you eat? Where would you be? What scenery is surrounding you? What adventure would you take together?

That answer that couples typically create is often the adventure they want for their elopement day — and they could easily fit in so many activities, adventures, and scenic views.

More often than not, the adventures couples really want to build for themselves can’t fit into a 3-hour photo session.  

Here’s how we see it — this is your big, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime day that you’re going to look back on forever.

It’s your anniversary date that you’ll re-live every year—shouldn’t you have a day that you want to constantly remember because every single moment was perfect? And more than that, shouldn’t you have a way to relive every single moment?

That’s the thing — sometimes people think that elopement photography is all about a few portraits, saying vows, and scheduling out an hour or two of photos.

But that doesn’t have to be it. Think about a big, traditional wedding — those things last hours, and more often than not, a photographer is there to document the entire story of your wedding day (6, 8, 10, sometimes 12 hours!)

Who says your elopement day doesn’t deserve that same documentation? Who’s to say that your entire elopement day doesn’t deserve to be wholly, meaningfully preserved in beautiful photos?

Elopements can last the entire day — sometimes two or three days, even — because you’re creating your wildly different wedding day that you truly want. Maybe that looks like hiking to the top of a mountain, maybe that looks like sliding down sand dunes all day, maybe that means rock climbing and popping champagne and having a family ceremony.

Here’s another thing — an all-day elopement doesn’t mean you’re going on an all-day photoshoot.

We’re there to melt into the background to document your love — not to pose you uncomfortably for hours on end.

At the end of the day, none of this is about us. This is entirely about you — we’re just there to guide you, support you, and provide you with the best damn photos of your epic adventure that we possibly can.

Bride and groom embrace on a cliff on their elopement day. The bride's dress flows in the wind behind her.
Bride and groom sit on a mountain with their two dogs.

Why Hire an Elopement Photographer All Day? — A Look at What Goes Down During an All-Day Elopement Timeline

Even with all that info we just threw at you, we still understand how it can be tough to mentally plot out how an all-day elopement would go down or why couples hire us for 8+ hours.

Check out a few of these real-couple examples. Each of these amazing couples had the day of their dreams — a day they designed. We were just there to help and make sure that they had something meaningful and intimate to look back on forever.

Brecka & Nick – All-Day Elopement in Colorado

This sweet couple camped at the trailhead the night before their elopement where they planned their sunrise hike. Here’s a little insight on how the day went down:

Bride and groom during all-day elopement in Colorado.
Bride and groom share a kiss in front of alpine lake, during all-day elopement in Colorado.
Bride and groom with their dod during all-day elopement in Colorado.
  • 1:50 am — Amber (one of our kickass photographers) arrives at the trailhead and snags some photos of Brecka & Nick taking down their tent.
  • 2:00 am — it’s time to hike! Brecka, Nick, some family members, some super cute pups, and Amber head up the trail to their perfect elopement spot, enjoying every second of the headlamp hike together.
  • 5:30 am — They arrive at their perfect elopement spot. They wanted to get ready separately because…
  • 5:55 am — it’s first look time! That’s right, you can have a first look at your elopement. Brecka and Nick planned theirs for some epic alpenglow!
  • 6:00-8:00 am — Brecka and Nick started their private ceremony when it felt right for them. They did exactly what they wanted — said their vows in the exact place they wanted, took some intimate portraits, and enjoyed their elopement ceremony.
  • 8:00 am — the hike down begins — dog photos included, of course.
  • 10:00 am — Back at the trailhead, it was time for some family photos with their special group
  • 10:30 am — A champagne toast and a marriage license signing (with pup prints as witness signatures) caps off their hiking ceremony.
  • 11:00 am-4 pm — an epic elopement reception kicks off at the Ouray Brewery — a celebration worthy of Brecka and Nick’s amazing elopement experience!

Jordyn & Connor — All-Day Elopement in Alaska

Jordyn and Connor wanted an all-day elopement adventure all to themselves — and they chose a pretty epic way to do it.

Bride and groom share a first look during all-day elopement in Alaska.
Bride and groom smiling at each other while riding in a helicopter, during an all-day elopement in Alaska.
Bride and groom in front of glacial for their all-day elopement in Alaska.
Bride and groom share a kiss, with a bonfire in the foreground, during their all-day elopement in Alaska.
  • 11:45 am — the getting ready begins — hair, makeup, the whole nine.
  • 1:00 pm — this awesome couple wanted a first look, so they got ready separately. Maddie takes some sweet Airbnb shots and Jordyn and Connor take some time to handwrite their vows
  • 1:45 pm — Jordyn puts on her dress, they have an amazing first look at their cute Airbnb, they head to the Knik Lodge, and Maddie signs as the officiant on their marriage certificate during their legal ceremony (which, they also did at the lodge where they asked helicopter pilots to be their witnesses).
  • 4:00 pm — then, they do it — they climb into a helicopter and take off to see Alaska in a way they’d always dreamed of.
  • 4:15 pm — we land on glaciers, we view icebergs, we fly to the tops of ridges to see glacial fields. We literally explore three amazing places, each as beautiful as the next. Jordyn and Connor say their vows, they explore together and take all the time to marvel at the amazing place they chose for their elopement day.
  • 8:30 pm — we fly back to the Knik Lodge where they’ve stayed open to feed Jordyn and Connor an insanely delicious meal. They eat, we head back to the Airbnb, and we build a campfire.
  • 10:30 pm — in the Alaskan blue hour, Jordyn and Connor have their first dance by the fire — these two can seriously bust a move.

Ernie & Brian — All-Day Elopement in Colorado

Ernie and Brian wanted an adventurous, intimate elopement, but they also wanted a ceremony where they could invite the people they loved the most. The coolest thing? They didn’t have to sacrifice either.

Two groom put on their cufflinks during all-day elopement in Colorado.
Two grooms walk through an aspen grove, while holding hands, during their all-day elopement in Colorado.
Two grooms read their vows, with mountains in the background, during their all-day elopement in Colorado.
  • 12:30 pm — Amber arrives at Ernie and Brian’s super cute Airbnb in Ouray — and they are totally ready for it. The details are all laid out, they’re excited to help each other get ready, and they’re anxious to head out for their adventure
  • 1:00 pm — they pile in the car, head up the mountain, take some detours for a few great photos, and drive to an insanely beautiful lake (while taking more picture stops, of course). Then, they head back down to town. Why?

  • 2:30 pm — To pick up their ATVs for their off-road elopement adventure, of course. For the next two hours, Brian and Ernie drive up the mountains 4×4 roads, explore a basin they know and love, and find the perfect cliff-side spot to say their private, intimate vows. They set up their ceremony spot and take off on their side-by-side again, awaiting their guests.
  • 4:45 pm — When the guests arrive, Brian and Ernie, drive up in their side-by-side to the perfect mountain ceremony near some epic falls. A beautiful, unique, and super-personalized ceremony begins (every family member had a part in their ceremony). They say vows, they pop the champagne, they celebrate together, and of course, take family portraits.
  • 5:45 pm — the whole group heads back down to town for more adorable photos, delicious snacks, and lots of celebration while the sun sets over beautiful Ouray, Colorado.
  • 7:30 pm — so begins an epic dinner, and so begins Ernie & Brian’s married life!

Nicki & Chris — Two-Day Elopement in Iceland

This couple knew the value of their elopement — and they weren’t afraid to stretch it to two days. Nicki and Chris had an amazing Iceland elopement and we were so thrilled to help them create their perfect days.

Bride and groom share a first look during their all-day elopement in Iceland.
Bride and groom during their all-day elopement in Iceland.
Bride and groom kiss during their all-day elopement in Iceland.
Bride and groom embrace on icy shore during their all-day elopement in Iceland.

Day One

  • 7:30 am — the getting ready begins. Enter hair, enter makeup, enter photos. The couple gets ready separately at their sweet, rented cabin. Nicki dons an out-of-this-world blue skirt and shirt combo that knocks our socks off.   
  • 9:00 am — Nicki and Chris have their perfect first look right outside their cabin. It’s time to take off toward the beautiful canyon they’ve chosen for their ceremony.
  • 12:00 pm — the hike begins after a long drive to the trailhead! Nickie and Chris brought along some guests — as well as an Icelandic officiant to legally marry them! Everyone hikes into the canyon, Nicki and Chris have an amazing ceremony, and we document every second of their beautiful love story
  • 4:00 pm — the first day ends, we all hike out, and we look forward to the adventure tomorrow promises to bring!

Day Two

  • 8:00 am — Day two is just for Nicki and Chris, leaving the family back at the cabin. They hike back to a hot spring they wanted to explore together and spend a few hours totally soaking in their love (and soaking in some sweet hot springs)
  • 10:00 am — the two-day elopement adventure is over, but Nicki and Chris’s life of adventure has just begun.

Tips for Your All-Day Elopement

Your elopement day is all about what you want — make that last!

The day goes by so fast already, and often, things take a lot longer than you think. These things take time, they take an adventure and getting comfortable — you shouldn’t be rushing through your elopement when it’s bound to be one of the best days of your life.

Here are a few tips for enjoying your all-day elopement as much as you possibly can!

Bride and groom share their vows during all-day elopement.

Value Your Elopement Day

Care so much about your elopement day that it makes your heart want to explode. Value the day you’re planning with the love of your life to the point that you recognize it deserves everything you both want.

I eloped, and speaking from experience, it was everything. The entirety of it was perfect, and I can’t express how deeply happy I am that I had someone there to document the entire thing. I swear, seeing those photos — seeing every single moment — is like reliving my elopement over and over again, and I can’t even begin to describe how impactful that is. I want to look at them every single day.

The entire thing goes by so quickly and it can be tough to remember every intimate moment — but I wanted to. And I can, because someone was there to document it.

Consider the Transition Times

Like we mentioned earlier, things take more time than you might initially think. When you’re booking your all-day elopement with a photographer, think about transition times, think about your adventures, think about avoiding the whole rush-to-get-the-photo aspect.

Create an all-day elopement timeline that lets you breathe, lets you adventure, and lets you enjoy just being in love.

Build Some Space Into Your Schedule

Sure, it’s super important to try to build out a schedule if you have a lot of adventurous things you want to do on your day — and, if you want us to be there to document all of those things — it can be really helpful to leave some space in your schedule.


Because you deserve spontaneity and fun on your elopement day. You shouldn’t be looking at your watch, timing your day out, making sure you have enough minutes left for your photographer to hang with you. Your day deserves all the time you need and want —e ven if that means leaving an hour or two of extra space because you want the freedom to hop out of the car wherever and whenever you want, run barefoot through a field, and explore with the love of your life.  

We’re there to help you document your life story — so live that story the way you want to. Don’t let a timer dictate how you experience your wildly different wedding day.

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What Your Day Should Look Like

Never let someone convince you that all you need is a few portraits or an hour of shots — do what you want. If you want us there to tell your entire love story as naturally and beautifully as it happens in real-time, do that. This is your wedding day — give it the attention and value that it deserves no matter what anyone else tells you.

Memories will fail. They fade. They disappear into all the complex corners of our brain.

And on a day that’s so wildly and impactfully important in your life, you deserve to know what every second looked like — what it felt like. Every moment of your elopement deserves to captured forever — stuck in infinite memory books that you can open, thumb through, and smile at every single anniversary.

To hell with what the world tells you, have the day (or days) that you want — no matter how long that lasts.

No matter what your elopement looks like — one day or five, you do you — make sure that above all, it’s entirely about the two of you. You’re getting married because you love each other because you’re choosing each other — because you know that life is the biggest adventure of all, and there’s no one else you’d rather have by your side.

Shouldn’t your day be about that — and shouldn’t you have something to hold onto to remind you of that forever?

We think so.

Bride and groom share their vows during all-day elopement. There are mountain and forests in the background.


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Maddie Mae

Elopement Photographer

& Planning Consultant

Three photographers

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Adventure Instead

Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

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